From the director of Nightmare Before Christmas and the legendary Sci-fi/ Fantasy author, Neil Gaiman (Sandman, American Gods, Neverwhere), Coraline is an epic undertaking that took three-and-a-half years to prep and shoot, involving thousands of man hours and a dedicated crew of experts from around the world.
Coraline is sparky, inquisitive 11-year-old girl who has been relocated by her pre-occupied parents to a backwater of Oregon. Bereft of friends, ignored by her parents and isolated in a world where no-one has time for her and no-one can remember her name right, Coraline goes in search of adventure.
She discovers a mysterious little door that leads down a strange passageway to the Other World: a more colourful, more exciting parallel universe where she is the centre of attention. Her Other Mother is attentive and adoring, and has filled the World with amazements: magical gardens, Scottie Dog variety shows and an acrobatic jumping mouse circus. However, all the creatures in the Other World have buttons instead of eyes.
But just when Coraline starts to think that the Other World is where she really belongs, things take a darker turn. The Other Mother shows her true colours and Coraline must summon all her wit, resolve and courage to find her way home and save her family.
The film is an mind-boggling feat of animation: the biggest stop-motion film ever made. Starting in 2005, the film took two years of pre-production and a shoot that lasted 18 months, with 130 sets built across 52 different stages at the LAIKA studios in Portugal, with 28 puppets of different sizes for the character of Coraline alone. An unprecedented attention to detail was adhered to throughout the production and this blossoms from every frame. The costume department even sourced antique Victorian gloves to acquire leather thin and delicate enough to made boots for Mr Bobinsky that would stand up to the scrutiny of a close up on a 9 3/4 puppet.
Coraline is also the first film to be entirely conceived and shot in stereoscopic 3D. The level of perspective in the film is impressive and offers a greater authenticity of image without distracting the viewer. There are few gimmick shots of the kind that has given 3D a bad name over the years (although the eerie passage into the Other World does draw suck in the eye): instead, the models and puppets are given a solidity and depth, helping them come alive.
Coraline boasts the vocal talents of a host of well-known names. Young veteran Dakota Fanny shows a surprisingly mature grasp of character as feisty little Coraline. Teri Hatcher, of Desperate Housewives fame, plays the dual roles of Mother and Other Mother while British stalwarts French and Saunders play the eccentric retired actresses and Coralines basement neighbours, Miss Forcible and Miss Spunk. Even Ian McShane makes an aural appearance as the bizarre 8ft tall blue Russian giant, Mr Bobinsky, Coralines upstairs neighbour and ringmaster to the fantastic Jumping Mouse Circus. He revisits his West Wing roots with a bizarre Slavic accent that will probably amuse the adults more than the children.
Coraline is like a modern-day Wizard of Oz with touches of Alice in Wonderland thrown in for good measure, packed with inventive and colourful imagery. The performances are lively and pleasingly entertaining and it is clear that hard work and real talent have been at work throughout the production. But note, when the Other World turns sour, the film becomes quite dark and younger children may find things pretty scary.